On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a happy event, the baby shower for a dear friend’s grandson-to-be. For the past few weeks I’ve been mulling over a special cupcake to bring to the shower. When we were in the States a couple of weeks ago I bought heavy scalloped paper baking cups in baby blue with white polka dots. The packaging settled, I still had to decide what to bake.
I wanted a blue theme, with delicate and natural flavours and colours. I finally settled on a simple, fluffy white cupcake, adorned with a blueberry Italian meringue frosting and embellished with the sweet kiss of blueberry meringue swirls. Every special cupcake needs its own special name, and this one is no exception. I am pleased to announce the arrival of Little Boy Blue Cupcakes!
Deciding on the frosting was the biggest decision of this baking project. The full-on sweetness of a standard buttercream would be too over-the-top for the baby theme. I thought about trying my hand at Swiss meringue buttercream, but I’ve never made it before and this didn’t seem like the time to start. I finally settled on a variation of the old-fashioned seven-minute frosting that my old standards cookbook calls “White Mountain Frosting.” It’s really an Italian meringue frosting, made by making a candied sugar syrup — in this case with homemade blueberry liquid instead of water — and then beating it into egg whites. In addition to looking elegant and tasting good, this recipe also has the virtue of being economical, since it uses no butter. I do need to figure out how to eliminate the bubbles in the frosting — something to perfect for next time!
Making these confections was a labour of love in several stages. I baked the cupcakes Saturday afternoon. Saturday night I made the blueberry liquid (it wasn’t thick enough to call a coulis) and the meringues. I baked them for an hour and a half, and then turned off the oven and left them to dry overnight. Sunday morning I just needed to whip up the frosting and assemble the cupcakes.
The blueberry juice is a deep reddish-purple colour. At first, when mixed into egg whites the colour morphed into gray, which was somewhat worrisome, but as I continued to beat the eggs an almost magical transformation into blue occurred. I used raspberry vinegar in the meringues, which I found complemented and heightened the blueberry flavour better than the vanilla extract I added to the frosting (note to self for next time!).
Using my largest plain round tip, I piped fluffy pillows of frosting on top of each cupcake, then smushed them down a bit with a paler blue meringue kiss. The final result was a pretty study in pale blues that was fitting for a boy’s baby shower.
The cupcakes themselves were light and fluffy, the frosting gently sweet with a mild fruity taste, and the meringue kisses provided a little punch of crunch and blueberry sweetness. I did notice that after a couple of hours the meringue was starting to melt into the frosting, but they still held their swirly shapes. You can imagine how gratifying it was when one of the guests asked the hostess where she’d ordered the cupcakes from.
This was the perfect dessert to express how much I’m looking forward to meeting the little guy when he decides to make his appearance.
Little Boy Blue Cupcakes
Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes. Recipe and instructions adapted from Sweetapolita, here. I followed her recipe for moist, fluffy vanilla cupcakes with the exception that I whipped the egg whites to soft peaks and folded them in at the end, to lighten the batter.
Preheat the oven to 350º. If using muffin tins, line them now with paper liners. I used stiff paper cups that I held to fill and set on a baking tray to bake.
- 2-1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup milk, at room temperature
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 whole egg, at room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Put the milk, whole egg, and extracts in a small bowl and mix well with a fork or whisk.
Whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Pour from your mixing bowl, scraping well, into a smaller bowl and set aside. (If you have a hand mixer, you could whip the eggs whites in a separate bowl.)
Put the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and milk mixtures alternately (3 dry additions, 2 wet). Beat after each addition until incorporated and when done mix on medium speed another minute or so. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the reserved whipped egg whites.
Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full. I used a medium sized ice cream scoop (2 tbsp or 30 ml size). The paper cups were very sturdy, so I set them onto a baking tray. Bake on the centre rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the centre of one comes out clean.
Remove the cupcakes from the pans and cool on wire racks. If assembling the next day, keep in a sealed container overnight.
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- splash water
Combine in a small sauce pan. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until blueberries have released their deeply coloured juices and are soft. Push through a sieve, leaving skins and seeds behind. Cool. I kept mine covered in the refrigerator overnight.
Blueberry Meringue Kisses
My inspiration for these came from the blog Love and Olive Oil, here. Lindsay used freeze dried blueberries in her recipe, but I used the blueberry liquid, gently folding it into the egg whites at the stiff peaks stage so as not to collapse them. In retrospect, I could have added it along with the raspberry vinegar and whipped it all up in the mixer. The recipe for the meringues is from one of my earlier posts, The Ethereal Dessert – Meringues, and is adapted from Laura Calder’s cookbook French Taste. Note, I cut the original recipe in half.
Pre-heat oven to 200ºF.
- 2 egg whites
- pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp raspberry vinegar
- pinch cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup icing sugar
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp blueberry liquid, room temperature
Whip the whites with the salt to soft peaks. Add the raspberry vinegar and blueberry liquid and continue beating until stiff peaks form. The mixture should be a very pale blue now. Stir the cream of tarter into the granulated sugar, and whisk into the whites one spoonful at a time, until the sugar has dissolved and the meringue is stiff and glossy. Sift the icing sugar and cornstarch together, then sift over the meringue. Gently fold until completely incorporated.
Using a fancy tip, pipe the meringues into quarter- to toonie-sized (it’s a Canadian thing) kisses onto a parchment paper- or silpat-lined baking tray. Bake for 1-1/2 hours until firm on top. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in to continue drying overnight. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Blueberry Italian Meringue Frosting
Makes enough for 24 cupcakes or to fill and frost a 2-layer cake of 8 or 9 inches. This recipe is from my Doubleday Cookbook from 1975, which calls this recipe “White Mountain Frosting,” but technically it’s an Italian meringue. Doesn’t that sound elegantly European? It’s quite easy to make, and you can change up the colour and flavour by adding fruit liquids instead of water. This meringue frosting is less sweet than a standard buttercream and it’s also economical since it doesn’t call for butter. It’s quite easy to work with once made, the only challenge being refilling the pastry bag since the frosting is so sticky.
- 3/4 cup sugar (I used fine granulated)
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup blueberry liquid (substituted for water)
- 3 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (in future, I would use raspberry vinegar)
MIx sugar, corn syrup and blueberry liquid in a small, heavy saucepan. Insert a candy thermometer, partially cover the pan and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Remove the cover and boil without stirring until the thermometer reaches 240 – 242ºF, or until a drop on the tip of a spoon will spin a 6″ to 8″ thread. Just before the syrup reaches the proper temperature, begin beating the egg whites with your mixer until soft peaks form. When the syrup is at the right temperature, set the mixer at high speed and pour the syrup into the whites in a slow thin stream. (Be careful, as the hot sugar syrup can burn.) Continue beating until glossy and firm enough to hold its shape.
These cupcakes are not difficult to make, although they contain several components, so plan ahead to ensure you won’t need to rush. They truly are a labour of love!